Israel News for April 18, 2016

Golan Message
The Israeli government held a special cabinet meeting in the Golan, as a message to the world that the area will remain as part of Israel forever. The PM declared, “The time has come for the international community to recognize reality. Whatever happens on the other side of the border, the line is not going to change. The time has come after 50 years for the international community to acknowledge that the Golan Heights will permanently remain under Israeli sovereignty.” Netanyahu said that he conveyed the same message to US Secretary of State John Kerry by phone yesterday.

Syria’s Foreign Minister, Faisal al-Miqdad, responded to the PM’s message saying that, “the Syrian Golan is an occupied Arab land according to the UN Security Council’s resolutions, and the presence of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Forces proves this. We have never renounced the resistance and we are ready to recapture the Golan in all possible ways, including military ways. Israel wants to provoke us, but we will never surrender.”

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Tunnel Discovered
The IDF has discovered a Hamas tunnel that crossed the border fence a few dozen meters into Israel from Gaza. It seems that Hamas knew that the IDF had discovered their tunnel, and yet they did not mount a last ditch attempt to use it for an attack. No weapons were found in the tunnel.

The IDF located the tunnel using a newly developed tunnel busting technology system, which is now being used throughout the Gaza border area. This new system could actually trigger an escalation in the conflict. A senior IDF officer explained, “We have defined the mission as being the destruction of all attack tunnels without reaching an escalation, but an escalation will not deter us. Hamas knows we’ve strengthened our defenses and that it will have a hard time surprising us. If we end up in a war over this – then so be it. This is a long, protracted struggle. Hamas is a sophisticated enemy. It learns lessons and implements them fast. Each one of these tunnels that we foil is a loss for it. Hamas will have to contend with the dilemma of whether or not to act if it sees itself losing other attack tunnels.”

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Singapore and Israel
The Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong, will arrive in Israel today for a four day official visit. He will be accompanied by his wife, the foreign minister, the environment and water resources minister and the home affairs minister.

Israel and Singapore have a long history of close relations. The IDF helped Singapore establish their army and wrote its military doctrine. Singapore is currently one of Israel’s biggest clients in military hardware and Israeli military companies have permanent representatives in the country.

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New Library
The cornerstone of the new National Library of Israel was laid last week in a ceremony attended by President Rivlin and PM Netanyahu. The National Library of Israel was founded in Jerusalem in 1892 by the B’nai Brith organization. Since 1925 it has been housed inside the Givat Ram campus of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, but the size of the collection and contemporary needs have outgrown the Library’s old building and dated infrastructure. The new building will be located next to the Knesset and is set to open to the public in 2020.

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Bike Laws
The Tel Aviv municipality has announced that starting on May 1, police will begin enforcing a law banning bicycle riding on sidewalks. The municipality will educate the public about the new law through billboards, video clips and green graffiti on sidewalks.

The law will include electric bikes and will also cover violations such as going through a red light, riding in the wrong direction, using a mobile phone while riding, and disturbing pedestrians in crosswalks. Punitive measures will include fines, taking the air out of bicycle tires, and confiscation of batteries.

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai said, “In recent years, we have been active and striving to encourage bicycle riding in the city as an alternative to the use of cars. This welcome change in travel culture has been accompanied by a new situation and insufferable phenomena, such as undisciplined riding of electric bicycles that endangers pedestrians, and it is therefore very important to deal with this and ensure the safety of pedestrians on sidewalks.”

Ride safely!

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Only in Israel
In an “only in Israel” moment, National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz has caused a stir by publicly stating that, “I’m not religious, I like tradition but I don’t avoid eating bread on Passover.” Apparently Steinitz will not be spending his Pesach in the tearoom of one of the deluxe kosher of Passover hotels in Orlando, Miami, Puerto Rico, etc. Instead, he might be sneaking over to Jaffa for some fresh Arab pita, or maybe just defrosting a bagel at home.

In any case, the fact that he doesn’t observe the Peach laws isn’t what’s making waves. It’s the fact that he announced it publicly. As a senior official from the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party put it, “it would be best that the honorable minister keep his comments and actions to himself in an issue that is so important and sensitive to more than 80 percent of the Israeli public.”

On a related note (sort of), the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Conservative Movement has permitted the eating of Kitniyot (legumes) on Pesach for their members of Ashkenazic decent. With all due respect, didn’t they also permit driving and using electricity on Shabbat and a whole bunch of other prohibitions? So is permitting legumes (which is only a custom) really surprising?

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Matzah Record
An attempt was made in Jerusalem to make the largest matzah on record. To see photos of how they did it, click here.